Although LaVarr was in high school and Frank was an eighth grader in 1968, we recall the anti-war protests troubling the country that ultimately influenced elections that year. Thus, we have opinions about recent activities throughout the nation and in Utah.

For weeks, pro-Palestine college student protests and counter-protests have popped up around the country, including at the University of Utah. But unlike on many campuses, the local disruption was short-lived due to the decisive action of University President Taylor Randall. In response, over 160 faculty members signed a letter to “vehemently object” to the use of force by law enforcement. Will Randall’s action bring praise or criticism from Utahns?

Pignanelli: “There is one glaring similarity between (Vietnam Era) protests and now: the protesters’ ideological and behavioral excesses undermine the very causes for which they fight.”—Max Boot, Washington Post

Successful dean of the business college, Randall was a well-respected academic upon elevation to president. He immediately enjoyed strong support from Mainstreet, the state Capitol and religious leaders. Every reaction by Randall to a challenge (including this one) has only bolstered his golden reputation.

On behalf of thousands who are alumni, donors, parents and family members of students, season-ticket holders and other supporters of our flagship institution, I hereby praise and express gratitude to Randall. He prevented the outrageous disasters we experienced with the 2011 “Occupy Salt Lake City” encampments. My sympathies are shared with fellow Utahns — and by most Americans. (Eighty percent of Americans side with Israel against Hamas, as revealed by a survey conducted by Harvard University and Harris Insights and Analytics.) Indeed, even the usually left-leaning “Saturday Night Live” program questioned the students’ objectives in a humorous sketch. Faculty members have the right to express opinions, but they are in stark contrast to the community who built the institution that employs them.

Randall exemplifies that a local raised in this magnificent state can possess the leadership qualities necessary for a globally recognized university.

Webb: Protesting is fine, a great American tradition. Go ahead and hold up signs, march and chant. But don’t prevent other students from going to class or to other activities. Don’t block roads. Don’t disrupt the lives of people who don’t share your views. If you violate laws, you should be arrested. Use of law enforcement by the university administration was certainly appropriate.

We need to keep things in perspective. These demonstrations are quite tame compared to the anti-war protests in the 1960s and ′70s. It’s really a small number of students protesting now, and in some cases, they are egged on by professional agitators. It’s understandable to be concerned about the welfare of Gaza civilians. It’s not OK, in my opinion, to support Hamas, a murderous terrorist organization with the same goal as the Nazis in World War II.

Do these exercises of the First Amendment (whether peaceful or violent) affect upcoming elections and public policy?

Pignanelli: If these protests continue, there may be resolutions adopted by the Legislature and various local government entities expressing gratitude to Randall and frustration with these activities. A solid majority of Utahns voted for the Lyndon Johnson/Hubert Humphrey ticket in 1964. By 1968, there was intense frustration with the chaos on campuses and the streets. This propelled Utahns’ support of Richard Nixon over Humphrey by an even larger margin. If demonstrations continue through the summer, a similar momentum will appear in the presidential election and other contests.

Webb: I do remember 1968 from the perspective of a high school kid. Today, by comparison, we live in an era of peace, prosperity, equality and opportunity. In 1968, anti-war demonstrations ripped the country apart. Race relations also reached a boiling point after Martin Luther King was assassinated in April. An avowed segregationist, George Wallace, was a serious candidate for president. (DEI is a minor controversy, by comparison.)

In June, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. A real war was raging, with 500,000 U.S. soldiers fighting, and 1,000 of them being killed each month in Vietnam. All of this produced violent demonstrations across the country. This era also saw the rise of the hippie “free love” culture and the Black Power movement.

All of this emotion and tumult exploded at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, with demonstrators hurling bottles, rocks and broken glass. Chicago police brutally responded with clubs and tear gas. The convention debacle badly damaged Humphrey and he never recovered.

It’s unlikely anything on the scale of 1968 will occur at this year’s Democratic Convention in Chicago. But anything ugly could hurt Biden and the Democrats among the party’s base voters.

With higher education currently in the crosshairs of national and local officials, will President Randall’s actions, and those of his colleagues, impact future policy decisions?

Pignanelli: The disparity between faculty and the surrounding community will not be lost on policymakers. This may propel legislation on various issues. But Randall can influence deliberations away from antagonism and towards productive — and needed — reform measures.

Webb: Higher education faces major challenges with declining numbers of college students, high student debt and questions about the relevance of a liberal arts education in today’s workplace. It is time for reckoning and reform in the ivory towers of academia.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semi-retired small farmer and political consultant. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah State Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.